The Devs Take: The Great Loot Box Debate

Since the release of Middle Earth: Shadow of War, many players have finally decided to draw the line with the use of loot boxes and micro-transactions. Because Shadow of War is a single-player game, the loot boxes bring a pay to win aspect and players believe that publishers and developers are trying to milk more cash. Now, more gamers are voicing their grievances about other games that indulge in the art of the loot boxes, such as Smite and Overwatch.

SOW Loot box

As a game designer undergrad student, I have two arguments to the “loot boxes are a ripoff” statement. First, publishers and developers will continue to implement ideas that bring in money. If players didn’t spend the money on these loot boxes, the devs would have no reason to implement them in the game. Two, the idea of loot boxes and micro-transactions have been around for a long time.

What exactly are loot boxes? Spending a small amount money for a chance to receive an in-game item that has the probability factor ranging from rare and useful, to useless crap. If we travel back in time, way back to the 90s, to the days of Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon, we can see the analog version of loot boxes and micro-transactions. Think about it, when you picked up your first Pokemon or MTG base card deck, how did you get more cards? You bought booster packs. You spent a small amount of money in hopes to get a kick-ass card that would improve your chances to win.

All the game industries did was digitize this concept, and bring it into the modern world. Players don’t have to purchase this content just as players didn’t have to purchase booster packs to improve their game decks, but they do, and one of two things is going to happen. Either every player will band together and never purchase a single loot box ever again, or they won’t and nothing is going to change.

Here’s the fix: If you don’t want to purchase a loot box, just ignore it. 


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